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Album reviews
Artist:
Mutual Benefit
Album:
Skip a Sinking Stone
Release year:
2016
Label:
Mom + Pop
26 October 2016 / by Mina Harden (author)

Until I started listening to Mutual Benefit, I don’t think I would have ever thought that I would have such overwhelming regret for not learning to play the oboe in my middle school band. With the addition of violins, cellos, acoustic guitars, and flutes, Mutual Benefit isn’t your typical 4 piece indie band, or your “man and his guitar” singer-songwriter. Although there is a deserving place for these types of albums in your music library, “Skip a Sinking Stone” is where you come to get lost in the deep wilderness that is layers upon layers of harmonious instruments, warm synths, and dreamy vocals. 

 

Lyrically, the album walks the listener through the emotional roller coaster of the happiness and freedom of being on the road, starting a relationship, exploring new paths in the first half, and then settling back into realities of city life, distant partners, and accepting failures in the second half. After an instrumental introduction from “Madrugada,” Lee expresses the optimism of a budding relationship, softly singing, “If I try and skip a sinking stone, maybe it’ll be the one that goes forever as it starts its flight,” in contrast to dramatic symphonic crescendos that fade in and out through out the song.  The euphoric instrumentals and hopeful lyrics stretch through to the sixth track, “Not For Nothing,” which was the first single off of the album - and with good reason. This song is definitely the most light-hearted on the track list, laying off of the complex orchestral compositions, and focusing on a simplicity that would appeal to a wide variety of listeners. 

While the lyrics in “Not For Nothing” foreshadow trouble in paradise for Lee, instrumentally, things definitely take a heavier note in the last five tracks of the album. Notably, “Many Returns” introduces melancholic synths as Lee sings with a heavy voice about crumbling love, deceit, and darkness. However, although the slower, darker vibe continues through to the very end, in true Mutual Benefit fashion, Lee doesn’t fail to leave on a happier note; the whimsical violin composition begins to pick back up in the last song, “The Hereafter,” with the last line being, “does love die or does it come back and find us every time.”

 

I had the pleasure of catching Mutual Benefit’s breathtaking set at The Drake Underground this past May. My friend and I had accidentally ended up meeting Noah, the flute player on Lee’s touring band. A few minutes later, we met and befriended Lee himself, who, in his warm and down to earth persona, seemed completely unaware and surprised at the effects that his music had on his fans. As I witnessed people beginning to approach Lee and praise him for his music, almost all of them used the term “beautiful,” when describing his past albums, which regardless of the word’s simplicity, describes the music most accurately. Regardless, my favourite comment that night was from a group of guys in their 20’s who excitedly came over and cried, “DUDE, your last album just absolutely DESTROYED us.”

The author

Mina Harden

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